Twelve Graphs & Dashboards You Should See On Climate Change, Science, & Public Opinion


Plotly has teamed up with The White House on President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative to explore and explain climate trends. This post is our first contribution. You’ll see interactive graphs about: temperature and CO2 (4), climate change & environmental impact (4), attitudes about global warming (3), and a population graph. If you like this post, please share it with your friends and on social media.

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1. Atmospheric CO2 Rising

Our first four graphs are about temperature records, projections, and atmospheric CO2 levels. Scientist Dave Keeling’s plot of atmospheric CO2 from 1958 to present is one of the most famous plots in this category. Concentration was recently measured at 401.52 ppm. The value was near 315 ppm around 1960. More atmospheric CO2 results in a stronger greenhouse effect. Increases in global surface temperature and ocean heat are some of the results.

See the interactive plot

2. Temperature and CO2 Relationship

This figure uses data also seen in a chart in Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The plot shows historical CO2 and reconstructed temperature records based on Antarctic ice cores for the last 400,000 years. The researchers concluded that there is a “strong correlation between atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations and Antarctic temperature.”

See the interactive plot

3. Earth’s Surface Projected to Keep Warming

Besides reconstructing the past, we can use climate models and graphs to predict future conditions. The Carbon Brief reports that “Depending on the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the future, temperatures could rise by as little as 0.3°C or as much as 4.8°C.”

See the interactive plot

4. Climate Change Attribution

The historical temperature records have corresponding assumptions in the model about the impact of various factors (volanic, ozone, solar, greenhouse gases, sulfate). The effects are broken down by category in the plot below. From the source:

“One global climate model’s reconstruction of temperature change during the 20th century as the result of five studied forcing factors and the amount of temperature change attributed to each.”
See the interactive plot

5. Arctic Sea Ice Melting

Our next four graphs are about the changes we can see and expect from climate change. Data comes from the Carbon Brief Carbon Brief and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Summary for Policymakers. the area of ice covered ocean — also known as sea ice extent — has shrunk by between 3.5 and 4.1 per cent per decade since satellite records began in 1979.

See the interactive plot

6. Sea Level Forecast

See the interactive plot

7. Outlook for Coral Reefs

Ocean acidification’s impact on coral reefs will be substantial. Coral reefs protect against coastal flooding, storm surge, wave damage, and provide homes for fish.

See the interactive plot

8. Crop Yield Projection

Climate change impacts agriculture. Yields of corn in the United States and Africa, and wheat in India, are projected to drop by 5–15% per degree of global warming.

See the interactive plot

9. Is Climate Change a Problem?

Our next three graphs explore attitudes about global warming. The first plot below shows how markedly different public opinion is by country.

See the interactive plot

10. Climate Change Public Polling

A few polls track public opinion on climate change, which has fluctuated over the last decade. As the graph below shows–note the contrast with the poll above–believing something is real is different than believing it is serious.

See the interactive plot

11. Scientists on Global Warming

Within the scientific community there is little disagreement over whether changes are largely caused by humans. Below we’re showing the results of reviews of scientific literature examining climate change.

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12. World Population Will Soar Higher Than Predicted

Given the role of humans in climate change, it’s worth asking: How many people should we expect in the world contributing to our global conditions? The latest U.N. population projections exceed those made by the International Institute for Applied Systems in 2001.

See the interactive plot

How We Made These Plots & How You Can Too

Plotly lets you make and embed graphs in your website, blog, or application. We made this post with a blend of our our web application–where you can upload files and graph data from a spreadsheet–and our APIs for R, Python, & MATLAB. Every plot is accessible as a static image or as code in Python, R, MATLAB, Julia, JavaScript, or JSON. For example, for the last plot, see:

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